Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Three students on Seattle School Board

Seattle School Board student members for 2022-23 school year.

Three students now sit on Seattle School Board

Student leaders say that campus safety is a major worry for many kids

Campus safety is the top concern for kids in Seattle Schools according to the three students who now sit on the Seattle Public Schools School Board this year.

“A safer campus will allow students to learn without fear and for teachers to teach without fears,” says Jia Li (Jenna) Yuan, a senior at Franklin High School and one of the first students ever to take a seat on the district’s board of directors. “Even just within my own friend group I have heard many complaints about not feeling safe around our school neighborhood and around the school campus.”

Kids care about safety

Luna Crone-Barón, a junior at The Center School and incoming board member, says protection against COVID and adherence to guidelines remains a chief safety concern among students. 

“We were told that all students were going to be seated at desks, facing one way to try to direct airflow to reduce the spread of COVID. That absolutely did not happen.” 

A stronger voice for kids

Starting this fall, Yuan, Crone-Barón and Nassira Hassan, a senior at Chief Sealth International High School, will be the newest – and youngest – faces sitting around the table during Seattle School Board meetings. The three student board positions are the result of a policy adopted by the board in March 2021, after student advocacy groups lobbied for Black, Indiginous and people/students of color (BIPOC) to have a stronger voice in school policy decisions. 

The students are non-voting members but are instead expected to contribute to board discussions “by providing student insight and perspective, advocating their positions on district issues or needs, and serving as a liaison between the board and students.” According to a board spokesperson, student members cannot vote because they are not School Board Directors under state law. Only School Board Directors that have been elected by the registered voters of the school district can vote. Districts of Seattle’s size are also limited by state law to seven School Board Directors. 

One year appointment

Student board members are appointed for one year, following the academic calendar. This year’s inaugural class was nominated by a student-led committee in May, and was approved by the board in June. Student board member terms run August 1 through July 31 of the following year. 

Crone-Barón is a first-generation Colombian-American who identifies as trans, queer and neurodivergent. She is passionate about storytelling in all forms, works at a movie theater, writes poetry, and describes herself as a “theater nerd.”  

Hassan is African American and Muslim. She participates in the STEMsub program at the University of Washington, a college preparatory program, and is active in advocating for mental health awareness.  

Yuan has attended Seattle Public Schools since she immigrated to the United States her kindergarten year. She is a cross-country runner and participates in Key Club, the National Honor Society and the Asian Students Association.

Ensuring comfort for a diverse body of students

All three students stress that safety is paramount to learning. According to Hassan, addressing safety requires ensuring that students feel comfortable in the school environment and that school environments are free from discrimination. 

“Feeling not only safe but comfortable in an environment where you’re supposed to be learning will be helpful to so many of our students,” says Hassan.

Yuan also hopes to raise issues of transparency within the school district: “After a lockdown, it would be nice at least to know the vague reason behind why it happened if exact details can’t be revealed.”

Reaching out to fellow students

Keeping channels of communication open with the district’s projected 49,550 students for the 2022-23 school year will be a big challenge for the student board members, especially with students enrolled in elementary and middle schools.

 “The three of us are really aware of our duty of community outreach,” says Crone-Barón. They plan to use existing communication resources like newsletters, morning school announcements, and student body organizations. They are also thinking through a possible social media strategy. 

“I also think it would be pretty cool if we could do school visits like the superintendent does,” Yuan says. “This would definitely help us to better represent elementary and middle schoolers.”

Setting the stage for future leaders

The Seattle School Board says it is looking to this inaugural class of student members to help shape the role and set appropriate expectations for future student seats. While the positions are non-voting, all three said they would like to see that change eventually. 

“I feel that we should [have a vote], but we also understand that this is just a step in the right direction,” says Hassan. 

Students will push for a vote on the board

Crone-Barón takes a more forceful stance: “I will push, throughout this coming year, for the next group of student members to get a vote because I think it’s really important that students [have a voice equal to that of] district higher-ups.”

All three admit they are feeling at least some pressure to perform – and create change – as the first set of student board members. Hassan says it’s important to take the long view of their role as they enter the first year of a new program. 

“It’s making a base for everyone and in the years to come after that, something they can build upon,” she says. “It’s not necessarily about making the biggest tower right now.”

Read more at Seattle’s Child:

“Interpreters in schools: Schools mandated to meet student need”

“Homework Help returns to Seattle Public Libraries”

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.